Nov 18, 2022

It’s a strange time to be on the internet, what with the seemingly imminent demise of Twitter (one of the places I scan for job postings for this very newsletter), so why don’t we talk for a minute about something very, very offline? 


Winter in Toronto is cold. Really cold. And – I’ll say it – not particularly fun. We’re not like Montreal, throwing a big party for everyone to vibe out in the frigid January air. Toronto is better in the summer, and we know it. 


I just got back from two months of working as a podcast producing troubadour, just me and my headphones, traipsing around Europe. And you know what? It! Was! Wonderful! 


As podcast producers – especially as freelancers – we’re often subject to the whims of the industry. Going with the flow is an asset. Learning to anticipate what comes next is essential. Freelancing isn’t for everyone – it can be uncertain and unstable. It’s often people who thrive in the chaos of the unknown who are attracted to this kind of work. 

But what if… we initiated the chaos?

There were challenges. Being about four to seven hours ahead of the people I was working with was a risk. Editing work is fairly solitary – there have been many nights where I’m cutting tape into the wee hours – so that wasn’t a problem for me. But making sure I had time to connect with my collaborators, where we were both online and working, was tough. 


The even bigger challenge was closing my laptop at the end of my day, even when others were still working. 

But you know what? It all worked out.  


I needed a change of scenery for a while, and was better able to tap into my creativity as a result. It’s hard not to feel inspired when this is the view from across the street:

And not only did working while I traveled help pay for my trip, it also kept me grounded. Working on different projects gave me much-needed structure, though I tried to keep at least a day or two a week somewhat flexible to explore the city I was in.

If you’re thinking about taking your freelance circus on the road, here are a few things I would consider: 


1. Figure out what gear you need to replicate your setup


This is kind of an obvious one, but it’s also the most important. Initially, I planned to bring recording equipment with me, but my suitcase was getting a bit too heavy and I was worried about my gear getting damaged or lost. 


The non-negotiables for me were everything I needed to edit: my laptop, headphones, mouse, and iPad. I usually either edit with two screens and/or on a desktop monitor that’s so large that I can have Adobe Audition open and Google Docs or Trint open to follow a script. Lugging around a desktop was not an option. Enter: the iPad. I use it to pull up Google Docs, and use Audition on the laptop. An external keyboard would have taken it to the next level – I find it annoying to edit with a laptop keyboard – but it did the trick. 


2. Make arrangements with your clients


Talking to your clients about their needs well in advance of your departure will allow you to put safeguards in place so you’re not panicking on the other side of the world. Everything I was working on was remote anyway, but if you work with clients where you record in-person, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to take your show on the road. You could hire a fellow producer to tackle the in-person recording while you’re away, and have them send you the tape when they’re done. Maybe they’d want to batch record a few episodes before you go, so you could chip away at your leisure, giving them a bit of a break, too. Being a few hours ahead often worked to my advantage, because I could cut a draft in the morning and have it ready for my colleagues to listen to by the time they woke up. Pretty snazzy.


Anything is possible when you communicate!



3. Have a sit down with an accountant


If you’re working while traveling, and you’re self-employed, chances are, you can write off at least some of your expenses on your taxes. Are you working from your Airbnb? Meeting potential clients over lunch? Seeing a play for research for a new project? Keep your receipts and talk to an accountant about what you can write off to offset travel costs. 

Here’s what we’re keeping an eye on these days:

Okay, this is a weird one. Apparently there was an elaborate employment scam where someone was posing as a recruiter for JAR Audio. Read co-founder Roger Nairn’s Twitter thread for the whole story. We all like to think we wouldn’t fall for scams, but this one seemed pretty tricky!


CBC News and the Globe and Mail have both joined TikTok. Fun!


Two GREAT reads from fellow Fry Kattie Laur on her newsletter, Pod the North: a round up of all the podcasts that won at the Canadian Podcast Awards, and an interview with Chris Oke, executive producer at CBC Podcasts, about what the deal is with pitching the CBC. Kattie asks tough questions and it’s really worth a read.


A sign of more big changes to come at Gimlet. The New York Times’ Ben Mullin reported last week that Alex Blumberg has left Gimlet


Pineapple Street management and Audacy have recognized the Pineapple Street Union! We love to see it.   


Friend of the Fries Dan Misener noticed that Apple has started quietly tagging podcast episodes by topic.  

The Best Of lists have begun, and Vulture's list shouts out Let’s Make A Sci-Fi, which our very own max collins worked on!

tweet of the week

jobs hot from the fryer

The Globe and Mail is hiring a content editor for their audience growth team on a 12-month contract. 


The Toronto Star is hiring not one, not two, not three, but FOUR journalists for its new digital reporting unit.


CBC Vancouver is hiring a full-time, permanent social media video-journalist. Apply by EOD November 18.

The Walrus is accepting applications for its Writing Residency for Emerging Black Journalists until 11:59 p.m. on December 1.

hey freelancer!

Are you a woman who freelances? I know I am! Add yourself to the Women Who Freelance directory. You can also submit your business to their 2022 holiday gift guide. 


Pandemic University is running a workshop with Jana G. Prduen on crafting your nonfiction story. It runs on Tuesday evenings from December 13 to January 17 and will set you back $350. 


If you have $675 to spend on a course and HATE audio dramas, sign up for AIR’s audio drama for haters class with Hillary Frank. The deadline to enroll is December 23. 

what we're listening to


This week’s recommendation comes from Vocal Fry producer, Jay Cockburn!

I am not a true crime listener, but like many audio obsessives I’ve been utterly gripped by Bone Valley. I love innovative storytelling devices and this show is full of them. It’s bold in its creative decisions and it pays off. If you want a finely crafted piece of audio storytelling that breaks all the rules and winds up feeling like a gripping novel, listen to Bone Valley.

This is a story about Leo Schofield, an innocent man who has been in a Florida prison for 30 years after being wrongfully convicted for his wife’s murder. It could have been like any other true crime show, crafting an entire season around the case. Instead, the show opens with a judge putting his career on the line to state categorically that Leo is innocent. The rest of the show is not Leo on trial, it’s everything else: the justice system, American society, and the people involved in the case who aren’t Leo.


Host Gilbert King usually writes books, and it shows in all the best ways. Episode two starts with a three minute passage about the history of the show’s namesake, Bone Valley. It’s totally unrelated to the story, and were I an editor on the team I can totally imagine myself adhering to the “kill your darlings” rule and cutting it entirely. But they kept it and it works because it's an evocative scene setting that sucks you in. It’s part of a bunch of techniques that gives the show a literary feel.

I’m also struck by how researcher Kelsey Decker becomes a character in the show. She could have just been a name in the credits, like any other 23-year-old production assistant, but she’s on tape expressing emotions, opinions, and conducting interviews. Her voiceover isn’t as polished as King’s, and her interviews aren’t as slick, but I don’t care. In this show, that’s part of the story and it adds a kind of transparent depth to the production.


It’s also striking what isn’t in the show: teasers, lines posing questions, all the classic true crime techniques to manufacture intrigue. It’s another way that Bone Valley breaks the rules. It got me thinking about how I write for audio and the shortcuts I often take. I think I’m going to ignore my own rules a lot more from now on.


Forward to a friend

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Thanks to Emily Latimer for editing this newsletter, and to Katie Jensen for designing it.

We’ll see you again on November 25. Until then, here’s an update from the fluffiest chicken I’ve ever seen in Cascais, Portugal.

Yours in friends and fries,

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